The Malta Independent 16 December 2018, Sunday

Nationalist Party presents pre-budget document

Jeremy Micallef Wednesday, 10 October 2018, 20:09 Last update: about 3 months ago

The Nationalist Party has presented its pre-budget document, outlining its views in the lead-up to Budget Day. Shadow Minister for Finance Mario de Marco explained that they are putting their analysis and ideas out at an earlier stage of the government to allow for a wider discussion on the challenges and opportunities that can and should be addressed in the budget.

 

'By the people, and for the people'

Opposition Leader Adrian Delia opened the conference by explaining that as the PN campaign they've been building is based on the slogan 'A Society That Cares', this pre-budget document revolves around an economy being "by the people, and for the people". He further commented that it was important to note that "we are not an island that lies in isolation", and that our services depend on what is going on in the world.

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Delia went on to make a distinction between a growing economy, and growing productivity, in that simply because the economy is growing it does not mean that the average productivity of a worker is growing, but could also be a product of importation of labor from other countries.

"Economic success should not be built on lowering the conditions of middle- and lower-income groups through an excessive influx of cheap labor that is keeping wages unfairly low while business profits increase."

He also brought up the notion that the economic growth is being achieved "at the expense of our environment and at the expense of our reputation".

"Over the past five years our country has amassed a huge environmental deficit. We have sadly decimated the good name of our country."

 

What's in it?

The plan presented document was split into four main chapters- the economy, public finances, key areas of government, and sectoral.

Dr de Marco explains that the economy must be seen within an international, and local context. International factors such as protectionist policies being adopted by major economies "could derail the economic recovery and depress growth", particularly with regards to Brexit and the surrounding uncertainty of the subject.

Local factors also play a part as economic growth is tapering off due to an increase in domestic demand, which is due to population growth, which ties into higher spending on capital projects and recurrent revenue.

Moving onto poverty, De Marco insists that a huge strain is being put on the lower- and middle-income earners due to the increase in rents and property prices, with more pensioners facing poverty or at the risk of poverty.  He says that migrants are also working under condition that are bordering on slavery or forced labor.

With regards to the key areas of government, the Opposition suggest that more investments is needed in education to "align student output with the country's needs, and ensure that our students are capable of taking the best jobs generated by the economy". The environment also got a mention as they accuse the Government of failing in the areas such as waste, renewable energy, protection of our water table, air quality and the protection of unbuilt areas.

The document suggests that there has been a lack of planning in tourism zones especially where major projects are concerned, bringing up the lack of a carrying capacity study to determine bottlenecks that can limit growth or impact visitor satisfaction. Also criticizing the government for the "erosion of the authorities that regulate" the financial sector.

They go on to bring up the current tax regime which "favors foreign-owned businesses", suggesting that it might be "opportune" to consider tweaking the system to level the playing-field for local businesses.

 

The proposals

Amongst other things, the Nationalist Party suggested number of proposals for the upcoming budget:

  • A study into the revision of the individual income tax rate, particularly a Flat-tax whereby everybody would be taxed an equal, not equitable, income tax.
  • A proposal to invest in skills that are not necessarily university based, particularly trades such as electricians, plumbers and skilled construction workers, as these are in short supply.
  • Suggesting giving local councils a more prominent role in administering social affairs within their locality
  • The setting up of a task force to combat domestic violence, which would be responsible for reviewing and recommending legal and administrative measures
  • A sensible and planned approach to development, including high-rise development

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